The evolution of connectivity: Cities focus on increasing need for 5G infrastructure

By Phil Kelley

It’s no surprise that today’s style of communication has grown leaps and bounds since the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. Today, communication is a necessity for everyday living, just like water and electricity. When people turn on the tap, they expect water to run swiftly, not trickle out. And, when they turn on their mobile device, they expect to have data capacity and coverage.  

Now that more than half of U.S. households have abandoned the landline and rely exclusively on wireless connectivity, communications infrastructure is becoming more essential to modern life, and it powers every facet of our society. For a smart, sustainable city to continue to prosper, there must be a focus on implementing next generation communications infrastructure, specifically “small cells”. They are needed to increase current network capacity to keep up with the exponential increase in consumer data demand.

As municipalities consider implementing 5G-enabling small cells, it’s critical for officials and residents to understand that this infrastructure provides more than just a way to connect with our friends and family. From public health to innovation, cutting-edge communications infrastructure will benefit municipalities and their residents in the following ways:

Empowering emergency response

Investing in communications infrastructure and the deployment of small cell technology will prove critical to saving lives and improving emergency response. Years ago, 911 calls were exclusively made via landline phone; today 80 percent of 911 calls originate from a mobile device. Additionally, public safety decision makers have acknowledged the increasing use of social media in emergency situations – 89 percent of public safety decision makers now say wireless data is just as important as voice. Cities across the country have implemented new technology like flood sensor and gunfire detection systems which rely on communications infrastructure, such as small cells, to run and service people efficiently. These technologies are proving important when sharing and responding to information in real-time.

Sustaining local economic growth

We can use the application of 4G as a case study for the economic benefits of implementing new communications infrastructure. When 4G launched, the U.S. economy saw an estimated increase in GDP of between $73–$151 billion and up to 700,000 new jobs. With the deployment of 5G infrastructure, that number is expected to more than triple. Reports show that wireless infrastructure upgrades could create three million jobs nationwide and boost GDP by $500 billion over the next seven years. This translates to tangible jobs and economic prosperity for municipalities and their residents.

Encouraging local innovation

Cities and businesses are the driving force behind the U.S.’s race to remain a global leader in technology, and communications infrastructure provides the foundation for cutting-edge technologies. From autonomous vehicles to augmented reality applications, the evolution of new technology and innovation relies on a robust, local communications infrastructure. In the years to come, residents will benefit from more reliable municipal services, while workers and operators will be able to more successfully perform their jobs and interact with residents.

Powering modern day entertainment

The way we engage at sporting events, concerts, and family gatherings is changing. People use apps to check traffic before heading to an event, they take pictures and post on social media once they arrive, and they continuously look up supplemental information that helps them bring the event to life. But, with wireless devices in everyone’s hand, existing infrastructure can quickly become overwhelmed. Cities are charged with accommodating both the physical capacity of people and the data capacity of their devices. As venues become more digitized and connected, cities must look to create an environment that facilitates deployment and attracts investment.

As technological innovation continues, municipalities and residents will rely on advanced communications infrastructure to grow their cities, keep families safe, and power entertainment. It’s time to acknowledge the benefits that communication can have on our lives and do everything in our power to provide a foundation for the 5G revolution.

Phil Kelley is the senior vice president of corporate development and strategy at Crown Castle, the largest provider of shared communications infrastructure in the U.S.



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